Thursday, November 02, 2006

Less is better

I love the way that reading blogs can lead you to some really interesting material. I was looking at Richard Taylor's post about Valleywag today and followed a link to another interesting post which in turn lead to "I bet somebody got a really nice bonus for that feature".

Although the blog is about software, the concluding two paragraphs
"The thing is, all of these bad features were probably justified by some manager somewhere because it's the only way their feature would get noticed. They have to justify their salary by pushing all these stupid ideas in the user's faces. "Hey, look at me! I'm so cool!" After all, when the boss asks, "So, what did you accomplish in the past six months," a manager can't say, "Um, a bunch of stuff you can't see. It just works better." They have to say, "Oh, check out this feature, and that icon, and this dialog box." Even if it's a stupid feature."
"As my colleague Michael Grier put it, "Not many people have gotten a raise and a promotion for stopping features from shipping."
are more widely relevant.

I've worked in processor architecture and design for over a quarter of a century and one lesson I've learned is that what gets left out is as important than what gets put in. Designers love going to a layout plot and pointing out their contribution - "I did that part of the processor" - it's much harder to point at all the stuff that isn't there and claim the glory.

Although the cost structure of software is different from the cost structure of chips, software bloat
does matter. Bloated software goes slower and takes longer to develop and debug - just like bloated processors. With chips though, the manufacturing cost also goes up with bloat - less really is better.

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